Leaning into 100 percent alder-smoked malt means that brewing and drinking stjørdalsøl requires a deep commitment to extreme smoke character—and yet, according to many who’ve done it, the beer can turn out surprisingly drinkable.
“It balances out to me completely,” says Jan Chodkowski, head brewer at Our Mutual Friend in Denver. “But I’m totally a smoked-beer head.” The beer is “unctuous” and complex, he says, with flavors of tobacco, leather, coffee, and chocolate, besides the intense campfire. “Once you’re into it, it really mellows out. And it really has been a favorite among some of the brewers in town.”
Stjørdalsøl is not exactly a common beer style to find anywhere outside of its home in a corner of western Norway. Besides its obscurity, there is the tricky matter of malting all the barley over an alderwood fire. However, it’s a style that Chodkowski has embraced—along with friend Josh Cody, owner of the Colorado Malting Company and Colorado Farm Brewery in Alamosa, about 230 miles south of Denver.